Turning B.S. into a Book: Why We Wrote a Workplace Novel

[Our Perspective by Michael Voss and Jennifer Rock]

It began as a typical project meeting. You know the type – four hours of incoherent status updates, Gantt charts and latte slurping. Dozens of staffers lined the rectangular table, noses buried in laptops and smartphones. An IT guy snoozed in the corner. Two executive sponsors argued over the fonts in a massive PowerPoint deck, while a contingent of overdressed consultants waited, multiplying billable hours in their minds.

For three hours, 57 minutes and 22 seconds, we watched the meeting – and project – veer off the rails. Then we escaped, out of the office and onto a bar patio. Cocktails in hand, we began trading the wildest and wooliest tales from our corporate careers.

That’s when it hit us: someone needed to write a book about these types of experiences, and it might as well be us. So, over the next six years, we began spinning those anecdotes into our debut novel, “B.S., Incorporated.” It’s a *mostly* fictional tale with names changed to protect the innocent – and keep you guessing about the guilty. And while the book is certainly a fun read, we also infused it with plenty of heart and humanity. Here are some of the deeper themes we tackled – albeit with a comedic backdrop – and why:

  • We wanted to shine a light on the overworked and underappreciated. Business bloggers and pundits tend to focus on the heavy hitters: Fortune 50 execs, billionaire entrepreneurs and wildly successful C-level types. Where’s the story of the PR manager who quashed a potentially damaging company story? The A/V ninja who troubleshoots the video-conference system minutes before an investor call? In our book (figuratively and literally), these are the true heroes.
  • We had seen too many good cultures poisoned by bad consultants. Before you object, keep in mind that we are now consultants, too. So we’re well aware there are plenty of good firms and individuals out there. But the industry is also rife with shady operators who embed themselves within large companies like a virus overtaking its host. They specialize in bait-and-switch contracts. Churn up nonexistent problems to solve. Erode company morale. Consultancies like this are tailor-made to serve as antagonists in someone’s workplace novel. Might as well be ours.
  • We felt duty-bound to honor business communicators. You may think professional communicators make for odd heroes/heroines, but consider the facts. Their all-access passes to every corner of the company – from the penthouse to the warehouse – give them a unique perspective on the business. They’re articulate about the organization, and empathetic to people who depend on it. Quick with a joke; great with a turn of phrase. And they can hold their liquor. In short, business communicators are some of smartest, funniest, most dedicated people you’ll ever work alongside. Heroes in the making, we say.
  • We wanted you to know we feel your pain. No matter your industry or organization, you’ve likely lived through some painful workplace scenarios: poorly planned re-orgs or layoffs; lousy bosses; jargon-infused strategies with little or no substance. The only upside to this kind of absurdity is that it creates a sense of camaraderie among those who have persevered through it. And that’s ultimately what we want “B.S., Incorporated” to be – a story that makes you laugh and cringe and roll your eyes. And maybe even cry just a little. Because, hey, we’ve all been there.

Michael Voss and Jennifer Rock have spent 20+ years as professional communicators and are co-owners of the agency ROCKdotVOSS. “B.S., Incorporated” – which reviewers have called “witty and smart” and “a rich combination of comedy, ingenuity and sass” – is their debut novel. Learn more at rockandvossbooks.com.

© ROCKdotVOSS 2016



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